School voucher bill voted down by House, revived by Senate in late-night move
SB 193 – The House voted 170-159 to send the school voucher bill to interim study, effectively killing it. But in a surprise move Thursday night, senators opted to tack the original version of SB193 onto HB 1636, an unrelated bill establishing a committee to study education policy. The House will consider the amended bill next week. The controversial voucher bill would divert tax dollars away from public schools to private and religious schools.
Adult education still open to all
SB 525 – Those who educate adults will not need to check each student’s status as “a legal resident,” according to a 233-97 House vote sending the bill for further study. With its large immigrant population, Manchester has numerous adults studying English and life skills in several different programs, as part of their path to citizenship.
Medicaid expansion continued
SB 313 – The House voted 303-29 to continue Medicaid expansion, which provides health insurance to an additional 50,000 low-income New Hampshire residents. It was supported by AARP, Business and Industry Association, NH Hospital Association, and NH Medical Society.
Yearly refill for contraceptives
HB 421 – Insurers must cover birth control for 12 months. The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) only requires three months. Supporters said it would help prevent lapses in coverage that could lead to unplanned pregnancy while opponents said it would be too costly.
Behavioral health for prisoners in secure psych unit
HB 1565 – The Senate voted to require the secure psychiatric unit to be accredited as a behavioral health facility.
No marijuana growing for patients
SB 1476 – The Senate blocked passage of a bill that would have permitted patients to grow medical marijuana at home in a 16-8 vote, reflecting concerns about law enforcement.
Transgender non-discrimination the law
HB 1319 – The Senate voted to pass a civil rights bill that prohibits discrimination on gender identity. Gov. Chris Sununu stated that he will sign it.
Get out of jail card being worked on
SB 556 – To prevent people from being jailed before conviction for no reason other than the inability to pay bail, this bill requires judges to take income and ability to pay into consideration when setting bail for low-level offenses. It has passed the House, and the Senate and the House are working on a consensus version.
Voting and Elections
Voters must prove residency
HB 1264 – On a partisan split vote, 171-144, the House passed a bill that modifies the definition of resident for voting purposes. The Senate later passed a similar version of this bill by a vote of 10 to 14. It requires voters who are eligible to vote in New Hampshire, but who have plans to leave the State in the future, to comply with all residency obligations and fees, which would include, within 60 days of registering to vote, having to pay fees to obtain a NH driver’s license and car registration. Students have strongly objected this “post-election poll tax,” calling it “voter suppression.”
Disabled voters may get assistance with voting
SB 527 – The House passed a bill to improve signature-matching procedures for absentee ballots. If a voter is disabled, has unreliable handwriting, and receives assistance with their absentee ballot application and their ballot, the moderator accepts them. If a disabled absentee voter does not get assistance, the moderator relies on their own handwriting analysis to match the signatures. If an absentee voter voluntarily presents photo identification, they are not subject to signature matching. All other absentee voters are still subject to signature matching.
Local control on election postponements in weather emergencies
SB 438 – Towns and cities will have control over postponing elections in weather emergencies. A committee amendment for state control was defeated by a House amendment Wednesday for local control. Town elections proceeded in spite of a powerful nor’easter on March 13, as ordered by Secretary of State Bill Gardener, who was backed up by the Attorney General. The bill passed 178-158.
Community Safety and Wellbeing
Animal cruelty law defanged
SB 569 – The House voted 222-111 to weaken an animal protection bill. Among other measures, it removes inspection requirements, requires the disclosure of the identity of people who report cruelty, and exempts some dog breeders. Objections are: including “hobby breeders” with those who breed to sell; criminalizing animal hoarding; and holding animals at public expense if the owners are unable to pay while their owners are on trial.
Marriage age upped to 16
HB 1586 and HB 1587 – The marriage age was increased to 16 by the Senate. The NH Women’s Foundation tweeted, “We applaud the passage of child marriage bills HB1586 and HB1587. Today New Hampshire moves out of the back of the pack on child marriage, setting the minimum age at 16 and establishing a meaningful judicial process that puts the best interest of children first. “
Bus replaces commuter rail in 10-year plan
HB 2018 – The Senate approved the state 10-year transportation improvement program, without commuter rail, which had been removed previously in committee. It added a plan for bus service between Concord and Boston.
Customer-generated electrical cap increased to 5 watts
SB 446 – The House increased the limit on customer-generated electricity from one to five watts. Supporters believe it will help expand solar and hydro power here; benefit municipalities, school districts, and businesses; and reduce taxes.